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12 Dec 2007 : Column 143WH—continued

The group has set out to change the attitudes of people who drop gum and to promote positive behaviour and correct disposal. This year and last, the
12 Dec 2007 : Column 144WH
group worked with partner local authorities to run awareness campaigns in 16 areas, and my hon. Friend referred to some of those. Last year, the amount of gum accumulated went down by 38 per cent. overall as a result of those campaigns. This year, with a stronger campaign visual and a clear message on correct disposal, with the threat of a fine, as well as the benefits of experience, the participating councils are expected to build on that success. I will be able to release those results soon.

Many local authorities run their own awareness campaigns, and the visual used by the chewing gum action group can be made available on request to anyone who wants to run a campaign. To join up, people can go to our website.

In short, when local authorities make good use of marketing, street cleaning and local engagement and enforcement, they can achieve a good result and improvements in gum litter—and, no doubt, in related matters. All that clearly demonstrates that behaviour can be influenced positively, and it provides an alternative to a tax. As I said, we do not want to tax people who do not drop litter.

I have also responded to my hon. Friend’s suggestion on the development of biodegradable products, which we all want to see, although the manufacturers clearly need to make one that we enjoy chewing.

To sum up, we all recognise that gum litter is a problem in many areas. Local authorities have tools to deal with perpetrators, including the use of fixed penalty notices and prosecution for litter offences. Local authorities prepared to take the initiative have seen a reduction in gum litter from a combination of targeted campaigning, street cleansing, support activities and effective enforcement. We expect even better results from the chewing gum action group’s awareness campaigns this year, and we will release the figures soon.

In 2006, campaign areas saw an average decrease in chewing gum litter of 38 per cent. This is an issue for local authorities and for all citizens. It causes mess and inconvenience. We have made some progress, but nowhere near enough. If I was to walk down Victoria street with my hon. Friend, we would see gum covering the pavements. That is unacceptable, and we will continue to do what we can. We have given local authorities some tools, and we need to ensure that the chewing gum action group makes more significant progress so that we can see an end to such litter on our streets.

In the not too distant future, I hope that we can look back and say that today we made some progress—that we started the public debate here, raised awareness of the matter and achieved some conclusions. I thank my hon. Friend for initiating the debate and for how he made his arguments.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes past Five o'clock.

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